Reflective Essay in Education, APA Style (Gibson)

Reflective Essay in Education, APA Style (Gibson)
A Reflection on Service Learning:
Working with Eric
Onnalee L. Gibson
The header
consists of a
shortened title in
all capital letters at
the left margin and
the page number
at the right margin;
on the title page
only, the shortened
title is preceded
by the words
“Running head”
and a colon.
Full title, writer’s
name, and school
halfway down the
Michigan State University
Author Note
This paper was prepared for Teacher Education 250, taught
by Professor Carter. The author wishes to thank the guidance staff
of Waverly High School for advice and assistance.
An author’s note
lists specific
about the course
or department
and can provide
and contact
Marginal annotations indicate APA-style formatting and effective writing.
Source: Hacker Handbooks (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011, 2007).
This paper follows the style guidelines in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. (2010).
A Reflection on Service Learning:
Working with Eric
The first time I saw the beautiful yet simple architecture
of Waverly High School, I was enchanted. I remember driving
by while exploring my new surroundings as a transfer student
to Michigan State University and marveling at the long front
wall of reflective windows, the shapely bushes, and the general
Reflective essays
may include
cleanliness of the school grounds. When I was assigned to do a
service learning project in a local school district, I hoped for the
opportunity to find out what it would be like to work at a school
like Waverly—a school where the attention to its students’ needs
was evident from the outside in.
Waverly High School, which currently enrolls about 1,100
students in grades 9 through 12 and has a teaching staff of 63, is
information about
the school sets
the scene for
Gibson’s personal
extremely diverse in several ways. Economically, students range
from poverty level to affluent. Numerous ethnic and racial groups
are represented. And in terms of achievement, the student body
boasts an assortment of talents and abilities.
The school provides a curriculum that strives to meet the
needs of each student and uses a unique grade reporting system
that itemizes each aspect of a student’s grade. The system allows
both teachers and parents to see where academic achievement and
academic problems surface. Unlike most schools, which evaluate
students on subjects in one number or letter grade, Waverly has
a report card that lists individual grades for tests, homework,
exams, papers, projects, participation, community service, and
attendance. Thus, if a student is doing every homework
Source: Hacker Handbooks (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011, 2007).
assignment and is still failing tests, this breakdown of the grades
may effectively highlight how the student can be helped.
It was this unique way of evaluating students that led to my
first meeting with Eric Johnson, an 11th grader to whom I was
assigned as a tutor. Eric is an African American male who grew up in
a nuclear middle-class family in a Lansing suburb. Teachers noticed
Transition leads
from background
information about
the school to
Gibson’s personal
over time that Eric’s grades were dropping, yet his attendance,
participation, and motivation were above average. Surprisingly,
Eric himself was the one who asked for a tutor to help him raise
his grades. What initially struck me about Eric was the level of
responsibility he seemed to take for his own academic achievement.
At the time I wrote in my journal (January 31, 2006), “He appears
to be a good student. He is trying his best to succeed in school. He
came to me for help and realizes the need for a tutor.”
While tutoring Eric, I paid attention to the way he talked
about his classes and to the types of assignments he was being
Journal entries
are considered
personal communi­
cation and are
cited in the text but
not included in the
reference list.
asked to complete. My impression was that Waverly High School
was fostering student success by doing more than just placing
posters in the hallways. Waverly’s curriculum encourages analytical
thinking, requires group and individual projects that depend
on creativity and research, and includes open-ended writing
assignments designed to give students opportunities to form their
own conclusions. I found this reality both difficult and inspiring; I
had not expected an 11th grader’s homework to be so challenging.
I once said so to Eric, and he responded with a smile: “Yeah. My
teachers say it’s going to help us when we get to college to already
know how to do some of these things.” What was surprising to me
Source: Hacker Handbooks (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011, 2007).
Personal observa­
tions lead to
broader insights.
was the faculty’s collective assumption that high school was not
the end of a student’s career. The fact that teachers talk with
students about what will be expected when (not if) they go to
college is significant. That kind of positive language, which I
heard many times at Waverly, most certainly affects students’
Gibson analyzes
her evidence to
draw a broader
sense of themselves as achievers. In this case, Eric was not
preoccupied with worrying about whether he wanted to go to
college or would be accepted; rather, he mentally prepared
himself for the time when he would actually enroll.
This section bridges
academic theory
and personal
According to education researcher Jean Anyon (1981),
“Students from higher social class backgrounds may be exposed
to legal, medical, or managerial knowledge . . . while those of
the working classes may be offered a more ‘practical’ curriculum”
(p. 5). I do not see this gravitation toward social reproduction
holding true for most students at Waverly High School. Waverly’s
student body is a mix of social classes, yet the school’s
philosophy is to push each of its students to consider college.
Through its curriculum, its guidance department literature,
and its opportunities for career field trips, Waverly is opening
doors for all of its students. In Eric’s case, I also observed the
beginnings of a break in social reproduction. From the start of
our tutoring sessions, Eric frequently mentioned that neither of
his parents went to college (Gibson, journal entry, March 14,
2006). This made me wonder how his parents talk to him about
college. Is the desire to go to college something they have
instilled in him? Have they given him the message that if he
works hard and goes to college he will be successful? If that is
Source: Hacker Handbooks (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011, 2007).
the case, then Eric’s parents are attempting to break the cycle
with their children—and they have the good fortune to live in a
school district that supports their desires. In contrast to the idea
that most people have nothing more than social reproduction to
thank for their socioeconomic status (Bowles & Gintis, 1976), Eric
seems to believe that hard work and a college education are keys
Source is cited in
APA in-text citation
to his success.
Another key to Eric’s success will be the resources he enjoys
as a student at Waverly. Abundance of or lack of resources can play
an important part in students’ opportunities to learn and succeed.
Because nearly half of all school funding comes from local property
taxes (D. Carter, class lecture, April 4, 2006), areas with smaller
populations or low property values do not have the tax base to
fund schools well. As a result, one education finance expert has
Class lecture
(personal commu­
n­i­cation) is cited in
the text only, not in
the reference list.
argued, some children receive substandard education (Parrish,
2002). Waverly does not appear to have serious financial or funding
issues. Each student has access to current textbooks, up-todate computer labs, a well-stocked library, a full art and music
curriculum, and numerous extracurricular activities. While countless
schools are in desperate need of a better-equipped library,
Waverly’s library has a rich collection of books, magazines and
journals, computer stations, and spaces in which to use all of these
materials. It is a very user-friendly library. This has shown me what
the power of funding can do for a school. Part of Waverly’s (and its
students’) success results from the ample resources spent on staff
and curriculum materials. Adequate school funding is one of the
factors that drive school and student success.
Source: Hacker Handbooks (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011, 2007).
Gibson considers
the larger
implications of
her personal
Aside from funding, placement policies determine school
and student success. A major concern of both educators and
critics of education policies is that schools will place students
into special education programs unnecessarily. Too often students
who do not need special education are coded for special ed—
even when they have a learning issue that can be handled with a
good teacher in a mainstream class (D. Carter, class lecture, April
6, 2006). At Waverly High School, teachers and counselors are
not so quick to shuffle Eric into special ed. I agree with several
of Eric’s teachers who feel that he may have a mild learning
disability. I began to feel this way when Eric and I moved from
working in a private tutoring space to working in the library. It
was clear to me that he had difficulty paying attention in a public
setting. On February 9, I wrote in my journal:
Eric was extremely distracted. He couldn’t pay attention
to what I was asking, and he couldn’t keep his eyes on
his work. There were other students in the library today,
and he kept eavesdropping on their conversations and
shaking his head when they said things he did not agree
with. This is how he must behave in the classroom; he is
easily distracted but he wants to work hard. I see that
it is not so much that he needs a tutor because he can’t
understand what his teachers are telling him; it is more
that he needs the one-on-one attention in a confined
room free of distractions.
Even though Eric showed signs of distraction, I never felt as
if he should be coded for special education. I am pleased that the
Source: Hacker Handbooks (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011, 2007).
administration and learning specialists did not decide to place
Eric in a special education track. Eric is exceedingly intelligent
and shows promise in every academic area. He seems to be
able to succeed by identifying problems on his own and
seeking resources to help him solve those problems. He is a
motivated and talented student who simply seems like a typical
I came away from my service learning project with an even
stronger conviction about the importance of quality education for
a student’s success. Unlike the high school I attended, Waverly
pays close attention to each child and thinks about how to get
all its students to succeed at their own level. Jean Patrice, an
administrator, told me, “You have to be able to reach a student
where they are instead of making them come to you. If you don’t,
you’ll lose them” (personal communication, April 10, 2006).
Patrice expressed her desire to see all students get something
out of their educational experience. This feeling is common
among members of Waverly’s faculty. With such a positive view
of student potential, it is no wonder that 97% of Waverly High
School graduates go on to a four-year university (Patrice, 2006).
I have no doubt that Eric Johnson will attend college and that he
will succeed there.
As I look toward my teaching future, I know there is plenty
that I have left to learn. Teaching is so much more than getting
up in front of a class, reiterating facts, and requiring students
to learn a certain amount of material by the end of the year.
Teaching is about getting students—one by one—to realize
Source: Hacker Handbooks (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011, 2007).
Conclusion raises
questions for
further reflection.
and act on their potential. This course and this service learning
experience have made me realize that we should never have a
trial-and-error attitude about any student’s opportunities and
educational quality.
Source: Hacker Handbooks (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011, 2007).
Anyon, J. (1981). Social class and school knowledge. Curriculum
List of references is
in APA style.
Inquiry, 11(1), 5.
Bowles, S., & Gintis, H. (1976). Schooling in capitalist America:
Educational reform and contradictions of economic life.
List is alphabetized
by authors’ last
New York, NY: Basic Books.
Parrish, T. (2002). Racial disparities in identification, funding,
and provision of special education. In D. Losen & G. Orfield
(Eds.), Racial inequity in special education. Cambridge, MA:
Civil Rights Project and Harvard Education Press.
Source: Hacker Handbooks (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011, 2007).
Double-spacing is
used throughout.